Vancouver, B.C. – So maybe he’s a bit of a recluse, but that’s the way it’s got to be for Lokeynote if he wants to make it in this business. Nigel Berringer works long days in his East Van studio to help Vancouver’s hip-hop scene blossom by producing, recording and engineering local artists’ music. He’s also the West Coast hook-up for the hip-hop college radio circuit, a good person to know if you’re a struggling rapper. Lokeynote has a heart for Vancouver’s scene and wants to help shape its identity: the current Vanquish Beat Battle champ seems to be getting somewhere in his endeavor.
Dragged across the country by a girl who left him broken-hearted, Nigel settled down in Vancouver three years ago. He likes it here; he’s found himself a niche in this scene, making beats and mixing for some of the city’s up and coming rap stars. Not only can Nigel make an album and rock a crowd, he’s a bit of an industry buff and spends his time reading about the ins and outs of the music world. He might be out of the spotlight but he knows his trade and has been supporting himself through music for the past year, an accomplishment few musicians can boast. He keeps a low profile but Lokeynote, as his name suggests, is quietly coming up.
HipHopCanada.com: So Lokeynote, tell me all the things you do.
Lokeynote: I’m a producer, R&B and hip-hop, and I engineer, do recording and mixing. I would say mastering but I don’t want to call myself a master . . .
HipHopCanada.com: How’d you get started in this industry?
Lokeynote: I was a rapper. I started as a rapper about 12 years ago. I started making beats out of necessity because I was living in Calgary and there’s not a lot of producers there. And then when my productions skills started to surpass my rhyming skills I quit rapping. I didn’t really enjoy performing all that much either, I like to be behind the scenes.
HipHopCanada.com: Do you still rap?
Lokeynote: No, never. I kind of sing once in a while though, I can hit the notes. Once in a while I’ll get on the track if somebody needs some backups but I wouldn’t call myself a very good singer.
HipHopCanada.com: How did you develop your production skills?
Lokeynote: I went to school for it but I’d been making beats for a long time before that. I moved to Vancouver about three years ago with a girl; she moved to England and I decided to go to school at Pacific Audio-Visual Institute. It was a good experience, I learned a lot, I was top of the class. I feel like I benefitted from it but a lot of people don’t. With the technical side of things I read a lot of textbooks, it was self-taught. When it comes to making beats, I listen to a lot of other peoples’ music.
HipHopCanada.com: Whose music inspires you most?
Lokeynote: I’m a big R&B fan so I really like D’Angelo and Dwele and R. Kelly. As far as beats, whichever rapper that I’m working with inspires me. If I’m working with a certain rapper I try to do the sound that they’ve carved out for themselves. A big part of being a producer is providing the right sound for the right person, the right occasion. Whatever worked for them.
HipHopCanada.com: Any particular rappers you have a real good chemistry with?
Lokeynote: Jeff Spec. I’ve developed a real tight friendship with him. We did a record called “Free Press” which is available for free download, he is the best writer in Vancouver and he hits them on one take every time. He’s easy to work with.
HipHopCanada.com: Anyone you’d like to work with?
Lokeynote: Locally, I would say Defenders of the Faith, Checkmate and Concise. They’re pretty sick and really real. If I could work with any artist worldwide I’d bring Lauryn Hill out of the stable. Get her to do some singing, rapping, I think she’s the best female rapper of all time. And a Lauryn Hill record in 2009 would be the biggest record out.
HipHopCanada.com: Do you feel like you have a place in the Vancouver scene?
Lokeynote: Sort of, I work with some of the best artists that I know, it’s tough for a producer to get a name. I’m gaining more of a name for my mixing and engineering than for my beats but there’s only so many hours in a day.
HipHopCanada.com: Well, you were the first winner of the Vanquish Beat Battle, right?
Lokeynote: I think it’s all about playing the right beat for the right occasion. I’m really into R&B and Soul music but for a beat battle you can’t really come with the R&B jams. I really didn’t think I was going to win because I do a lot of soulful stuff; I smoke a lot of weed while I make my music so it’s not really boom-bap stuff. I played the right beats at the right time and the trick to winning a beat battle is having a good stage presence: if your passion for your music comes through you get the crowd into it.
HipHopCanada.com: Lesk One was helping put that on and he said the crowd just went crazy during the vote when he mentioned your name.
Lokeynote: Well, I recently mixed Lesk One’s EP so I think that he was worried that because he was hosting the battle people would think that was how I won. They especially went with crowd judging to avoid people being suspicious of skewed judging. Somehow it still came up though, there’s always somebody that doesn’t like the outcome, but I like the outcome!
HipHopCanada.com: Will you participate in the next Vanquish battle on April 16?
Lokeynote: I think now I hold a title and the winner of the next one has to go a round with me, battle me. I don’t know how guys are gonna feel about that because I just have to come with 2 beats but the other guy has to play a bunch of beats to get to that point.
HipHopCanada.com: Do you have your sights on any other awards? A JUNO for producing?
Lokeynote: I’d like a JUNO but I’d rather have a Grammy. The respect of peers is worth more than a statue, and Moka Only told me the other day that you have to pay $500 for your Juno if you win it. You get it on stage, take some photos and then give it to the next artist. Moka’s won three JUNOs but he only has one in his home cause that’s the only one the record label paid for. So if you’re asking if I want a $500 Juno the answer is no.
HipHopCanada.com: What’s your most valuable piece of equipment?
Lokeynote: The computer. I couldn’t do anything without the computer. I use a lot of mini controllers, I’m software based.
HipHopCanada.com: Tell me about your work as a West-Coast rep. for Maple Mothership.
Lokeynote: When I lived in Calgary I developed a strong friendship with a man name Ewan Mill, he’s a host on a radio show called Maple Mothership. They have expanded and have a network of college hip-hop radio shows across the country. My job on the West Coast is to collect music and act as a liaison to the radio stations, get them on board. We distribute monthly packages of content, PR drops, advertising, news and music to all the radio stations. Any Western hip-hop artists just need to get at me and give me their music. They can contact me online, firstname.lastname@example.org. I send in everybody’s stuff, I don’t weed out anything because it’s up to the DJs. Most play strictly Canadian stuff so as long as it’s not real garbage they’re going to get some spins. I did an instrumental album a few years ago and it charted #6 in Canada purely because DJs need something to play while they talk.
HipHopCanada.com: Any big projects coming up?
Lokeynote: As far as my production, I’ve been working on an album for a rapper named Young Sin, his album’s called “Born King.” Also working on another project with Jeff Spec, also Boom Goonz with Snak the Ripper, Young Sin, Lesk One, Fatt Matt and D-Rec. I don’t really produce those records I just engineer, record their sessions and mix their songs. Same with Snak’s “Sex Machine” album, I’ll have a couple joints on there.
HipHopCanada.com: Snak the Ripper is quoted as calling you a bit of a recluse. Do you see yourself that way?
Lokeynote: Cause I stay in the house a lot? I’m working, I work a lot. I’m real behind the scenes and I have a lot of projects on the go. It does seem like I’m in the studio from when I wake up till when I go to sleep, I work seven days a week at this, I haven’t had a job in over a year so I’m supporting myself with it. And some artists don’t have very big budgets but you believe in their music enough to put the time in, so yeah, I’m a bit of a recluse. That’s kind of where the name comes from. A keynote is an important person and low key is…kind of the boss behind the scenes.
Editor’s note: For more information on Lokeynote check out http://www.myspace.com/lokeynote.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada